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Sapphire ITX Compact R9 285 OC Review

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Sapphire ITX Compact R9 285 OC Closer Look:

Sapphire ITX Compact R9 285 OC is built around AMD's third revision of its 28nm GCN architecture debuted on September 2, 2014. Instead of a full-sized card like the Dual-X version seen on launch day, we see Sapphire taking a new path with this version designed to fit in small form factor chassis. A custom built PCB that measures only 171mm in length is used to house all the components needed to house and power the Tonga core and 2GB of GDDR5 memory. From the front, there is a 92mm fan that provides the airflow through the heavy duty quad heat pipe-based cooling solution. A silver and black shroud is used to keep the airflow on track through the card to maximize cooling efficiency. This card is designed for use in motherboards equipped with a PCIe 3.0 16x slot, or basically any current system, but should be backwards compatible. From the top, we see that the four heat pipes are tall enough that they necessitated a cutout in the shroud, much like I see along the bottom edge of the shroud.




Display connectivity on the ITX Compact is slightly different from that seen on the PowerColor R9 285 I just looked at. On the ITX Compact R9 285 OC, there are a pair of Mini DisplayPort 1.2 ports, an HDMI 1.4 port, and a DL DIV-I port, which support Eyefinity 2.0 and up to six displays. The back end of the card and shroud is wide open to allow the maximum amount of airflow out of the card. Additionally, the 8-pin PCIe power connection is mounted in the rear of the card to supply an additional 150W to the card on top of the 75W from the PCIe 3.0 slot; easily meeting the 190W TDP for this card with some headroom to spare. A single 8-pin connection was used in place of a pair of 6-pin connections, which will make cable routing a little easier in a packed small form factor chassis. A power supply of at least 500W is recommended when using one of these cards, while an 800W PSU is recommended when running CrossFireX configurations. CrossFireX configurations of up to four cards are supported with AMD's bridgeless CrossFireX technology, which allows the data to be passed through the PCIe bus. Along the top of the card, the only item of interest is the switch used to enable or disable UEFI support for faster more secure boot times based on the OS you are using.



Pulling the shroud and heat sink off the ITX Compact R9 285 OC lets us get to the root of what allows Sapphire to build this card. A large heat sink with an attached plate is used to keep all the components cool from the Tonga Core to the memory and VRM circuit. Sapphire employs its own Black Diamond Chokes as part of the 7-phase VRM circuit for a solution that not only runs cooler, but more efficiently.



Sapphire is known for putting together some interesting custom cooling solutions over the years, including solutions using its own Vapor chamber technology. Managing the thermal load in a small package required a robust solution and Sapphire is using a large aluminum fin array that has a quartet of heat pipes running from a copper contact plate to the array. A combination of two 6mm and two 8mm pipes get the load from the Tonga core to the fin array. The thermal load from the VRM and GDDR5 memory wick up through an aluminum contact plate to get to the fin array. The 92mm fan pushes airflow down onto the VRM section of the PCB, as well as out the I/O bracket and rear of the shroud. This robust solution should have no issues cooling the card down.



AMD's third generation 28nm Tonga core is built with 1792 streaming processors, 32 ROPs, and a currently unknown amount of transistors. This Tonga core supports DX12, Freesysnc, Mantle, and is meant for 1440p+ performance. 2GB of GDDR5 memory from Elpida, rated for operation at data rates of up to 6Gbps (1500MHz), is used on this card from Sapphire. It's tough to make out in the pictures, but in person, in the right light, you can see the specs on the memory. Clock speeds on the 2GB of GDDR5 memory is 1375MHz, leaving some overclocking potential on the table for the enthusiast. Although now EOL, the R9 280 uses a similar core configuration, but uses a total of 3GB of GDDR5 memory running through a 384-bit bus, while the R9 285 uses 2GB running through a smaller 256-bit bus; seemingly reducing memory throughput by comparison, until you understand that the new core uses a new loss-less memory compression feature that improves memory bandwidth by up to 40%.

Sapphire has both an overclocked and standard version of the ITX Compact R9 285. The main difference is the core clock speed. The standard version runs the core at up to 918MHz, while the OC version that I have hear runs the core at up to 928MHz. A small bump, but one made to keep the power limits in check on this card.



There you have it; a detailed picture of what Sapphire has put together for the small form factor crowd, the ITX Compact R9 285 OC.

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